For my Readers – below a quote from Miles to Maya from the movie Sideways about why he feels the way he does about the red grape varietal Pinot Noir:
Miles (trying to explain to Maya why he is so into Pinot Noirs): “It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”
The Red Grape Varietal Pinot Noir:
So much to talk about….and usually so little time. That is what is fun about a Blog, we can spend time together and not constantly be watching a clock. Today with all of the choices of what to talk about….and in Sonoma County, there is such a wide range of varietals that grow here, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. Rhone varietals like Syrah, Petite Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Roussanne, Marsanne and the list goes on. Sonoma County with its multitude of climates, terrain, coastal, valley, mountain, explains why there are so many AVAs or uniquely designated areas that grow different grape varietals. And it helps in part to explain differences in the grape types that grow best here and why.
Sonoma Wine Country has it all! It is just waiting for you to come and explore its many different facets. One of the varietals that Sonoma is known for is the Pinot Noir grape and wines that are made from it. In today’s blog we are going to focus on Pinot Noir as a still wine. It is in the Cote d’ Or in Burgundy, France that Pinot Noir is thought to have originated. Pinot Noir and the white varietal Chardonnay, its Burgundian sibling are used in “still” wines, and also used in Champagne and sparkling wines. Pinot Noir grows in different places all over the world and sometimes goes by a different name; for instance in Germany it is known as Spatburgunder. In another Blog we can spend time talking about other New World wine growing regions known for its Pinot Noir like Central Otago in New Zealand, or maybe even back to its roots with a nice discussion about Burgundy and where it all began.
But back to Sonoma County and Sonoma’s Wine Country, there are multiple areas in S.C. that grow Pinot Noir very well, the Russian River Valley, the sub-appellation of RRV the Green Valley, Carneros, Sonoma Coast, to name just some AVAs, but probably most well know nationally and internationally for its Pinot Noir is the Russian River Valley. As a red varietal Pinot Noir is a thin skinned grape and wines made from it are typically acidic (one of the reasons it goes great with food), and has modest tannin – the mouthfeel is supple, soft and silky. Pinot Noir is a Dry wine but can have what is called a “ripe attack” the fruit can project sometimes a certain level of fruit ripeness. This AVA with its warm days, cooler nights, morning fog all create conditions that suit this more difficult to grow varietal and can contribute to its delicious delicacy. The Pinot Noir wines made in the RRV can be typically fairly extracted, with the lush flavors of black and red fruit, jammy red of strawberry, cherry, raspberry and black cherry notes, and sometimes prune or plum. Other aromas and flavors you can smell and taste from Pinot can be floral like red or purple flowers, herbal such as tea leaf, tomato leaf or citrus peel. A different flavor or smell for this varietal could be spicy exotic sandalwood or cola and red licorice – and depending on the level of oak used by the wine maker you may smell the scents from aging in new oak barrels like cinnamon, coffee, or even caramel.
For pairing with food it is difficult to beat the versatility of a Pinot Noir, it’s the great wine that usually will go with so many different foods, making it ideal to order when you are with a group of friends who’ve all selected different items from the menu. Delicious with a variety of sauces, particularly those that are fruit based. Meats like chicken, pork or turkey and even beef – are great matches with Pinot. Fish like salmon, swordfish and tuna, strong but with not too strong of a flavor profile (you can overpower the Pinot with stronger flavored mackerel or mussels) all can make for a great pairing. And for a delicious cheese pairing – a creamy Brie is delightful! WIth or without food, since a beautiful Pinot Noir doesn’t need food to be a glorious experience, you should try one slightly chilled, a misnomer here in the U.S. where we think our 75 degree home or restaurant is room temperature. The ideal temp for a Pinot is 53 -57 degrees, a quick 10 – 15 minutes in an ice bath and open, sit back and enjoy!